Time, guard for Nash


POSTED: Thursday, April 02, 2009

The one-year contract extension granted yesterday to Hawaii coach Bob Nash is just a bonus to Jeremy Lay.

Lay, a sophomore point guard at Northern Oklahoma-Enid, gave his oral commitment to play for the Hawaii men's basketball team Tuesday night before UH athletic director Jim Donovan officially announced a one-year extension for Nash through the 2010-11 season yesterday morning.

Nash also has an option through 2011-12 if the Rainbow Warriors post an 18-win season in the next two years or make it to any postseason tournament—not just the NCAAs, but even a lesser event such as the NIT—over that period.

Lay, the Jets' all-time leader in points (934) and assists (485) after two junior college seasons, guided Enid to a 25-8 record this year and wants to be a part of a UH turnaround. The 6-foot, 185-pound guard made his decision just two days after returning home from a visit to the UH campus over the weekend.

“;I heard a little bit about, 'If we didn't win, then Coach Nash was going to get fired,' and all these things,”; Lay said. “;That's not really the way I look at it because Coach Nash is more than a basketball coach to me. When we sat down and talked, yeah, he told me all the things he expected of me basketball-wise. But I know that's a guy I can go up to if I have a problem, and he can help me with it. So I wasn't really worried about the contract being up.

“;Another thing is, I don't feel like I'm coming into the situation feeling like we're going to lose,”; he added. “;I feel like they brought me in to help us win, and that's what I plan on doing.”;

The Rainbows have at least one other scholarship available for prospective recruits, and two other players are known to have taken an official visit. Visits will be on hold, though, as Nash and assistants Jackson Wheeler, Larry Farmer and Eran Ganot departed yesterday for Detroit, site of the Final Four.

The official letter of intent signing day, when recruits sign binding agreements, is April 15.

Lay selected Hawaii over three other Division I schools that offered him a scholarship—Western Athletic Conference rival Fresno State, Missouri State and South Alabama. He earned Bi-state West Conference first-team honors, NJCAA Region 2 second-team honors and is the 82nd ranked player at JucoJunction.com.

The Oklahoma City native said distance from home isn't an issue. It was all about what felt right to him, and the island culture seemed to mesh with his style.

“;It was all about me going to a place where I fit, and that's where I fit,”; he said.

Lay is aware the Rainbows targeted the point guard position this offseason and are trying to get reliable 3-point shooters (he made 66 treys on 40 percent shooting this year). Sophomores Kareem Nitoto and Hiram Thompson split duties at the point last year.

Lay intends to be humble about helping the team.

“;They told me they need somebody who can knock shots down. I've never had a problem with that. Whatever they need me to do, really,”; he said. “;I have goals, but if they tell me to chill at the end of the bench and get the water, I'll do that.”;

Enid assistant coach Brian Humphries said Lay's sociable nature, along with his ability to make passes and knock down shots, makes him easy to like.

“;He competes really hard. He'll bring toughness to the program,”; Humphries said. “;He's a kid that everybody will like to be around.”;

Lay helped guide the Jets to the NJCAA Region 2 championship game for two straight years—the junior college equivalent of the NCAA Tournament round of 32.

UH is in a five-year postseason drought. The Rainbows went 13-17 last year, and are 24-36 under Nash over two years.